Creative Sessions: 'The aftermath', also known as 'The beginning'.

12‑06‑2018 Didi Groenhoff 4 min.

In earlier blogs in this series we informed you about how we set up our creative sessions and make sure we get the positive vibe and valuable input we're looking for. Once the session is over work doesn’t finish there. We're just getting started. Now it's up to us to turn the acquired input into new ideas, features and design principles. Also, we evaluate and work on making sure our next Creative Session is an even better experience!

Ordering input

The day after the session we sit down with all information we’ve gathered: writings, drawings, questionnaires, etcetera. Because we’ve set a clear research goal for our exercises our results should all be connected in some way. Still they differ very widely, from ‘small single user issue’ to results that turn into long term big projects or design principles for future development. As we have these user group sessions on our request (as opposed to the customer’s request) it is up to us which points we want to turn in to fixes, projects or design principles. We categorize all results and for each category test them to our current design principles and roadmaps, and decide if and when we want to work on this specific point. Furthermore we add them all to a digital inspiration board, so we can always find them when we need them.

Turning results out of our Creative Sessions into practical features and design system is a long term undertaking: not only do our sessions lead to specific development projects, but they also inspire us in all our other projects. Whatever we are working on: input our users gave us during our sessions help us to create an even better User Experience. 

More ribbons!

To finish it all off, the wrapping up and ribbon are back! A week or two after the session, when all input has been sorted and we know what results of the creative session we’re going to work on in what form the coming months we send our participants and e-mail. We offer them a summary of what we’ve concluded from their input, and what things we’re planning on working on. This way they can see we’re taking what they gave us in ideas, criticism, time and energy seriously. Also we tell them once again that we might contact several of them to get more input on specific topics. Possibly most important: we actually do contact them and ask for more input. To top it all off, once actual results are visible in the application, we send them another update. Hopefully this, and the positive experience they’ve had in the session will lead them to being willing to help us further in the future, or possibly contact us out of their own will to offer us useful and constructive feedback. This can be the beginning of a very valuable relationship.

Results and things to work on

Since starting our first Creative Sessions in this setup results for us have been that we can get very much very useful input in a two hour session. Following the path sketched above allows us to really get down to the details with a willing, positive and constructive group of people, which vastly improves the quality of the feedback we receive. We get better understanding of work flows, processes and specific needs of users in different rolls. This helps us develop even better software, made specifically for our clients in the infra-information-management sector.

Of course we still struggle. Our main challenges at the moment are:

  • How to reach the right participants
  • How to deal with that one person that wants to drive their point home, thereby endangering the focus and positive attitude in the session
  • How to keep in touch, tighten the relationship afterwards

For reaching the right people we are dependent on our customers, and management allowing our users to put time and energy into helping us improve our application. Here we work with our account manager, who can ready the path for us on the customer side. It is his task to explain why we need this time, and that it is also in their best interest to help us improve our application. Their employees will enjoy that better work flow and thus save time in the end. He also works on making sure we get the diverse group of people we need, which often includes people from different levels of hierarchy.

During the session we are sometimes confronted with ‘that one person’. I think we all know that one person that wants to drive their point home, focusses on issues they’ve thought of in preparation or is just having a bad day. Creating a positive, constructive, comfortable atmosphere can be (unintentially for sure!) be harmed by this presence. We put time and effort in making sure we pay attention to their issues, and we fully grasp them. But then comes the moment that we have to put them aside, as we want to continue with the rest of the group. Here we emphasize that we’ve heard their input, see its importance, but for the sake of the session will have to come back to that later, possibly in a private meeting. Someone will only react positively on this when we have their trust that, as we will, we will come back to them later. Building trust takes time. In the session, we don’t always have enough of that.

After the session we need to keep in touch. In ‘The aftermath, also known as the beginning’, we described how we do that: getting back to our users, asking follow up questions and keeping them up to date on what we’ve done with our input. ‘Keeping in touch’ however is a two-sided thing. We really appreciate our users keeping in touch with us. We want to be accessible when they have issues. They may have great ideas for future development. Or they may have just spotted a small bug we really want to know about. Taking our relationship to this next level works great with some, but others stay distant even when we don’t want them to. For now we can only encourage them by keeping our end of the deal, and making sure we are accessible and react properly whenever they try to reach out to us.

All and all we are really happy with the positive and constructive attitude we manage to reach in our creative sessions. Discussions have gone to a deeper level since we started, and quality of input has increased greatly. We’re ready to take on our next challenges.

Creative sessions Users Moxio EN

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